Manila – Amid much optimism that the Philippine government is close to a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a newspaper has cautioned that peace should not be achieved at any cost.
Mr Silvestre Afable, the President’s Chief of Staff, said on June 1 that both sides had agreed that the issue of ancestral domain could be resolved through the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA). Ancestral domain has been the biggest sticking point in the negotiations with the MILF.
“We are on the threshold of lasting peace in Mindanao,” said Mr Afable.
Once the question of ancestral domain has been resolved, the issue on governance will be discussed next. “We are looking at present laws and willing to make adjustments,” he added.
Among the options under consideration is the expansion of the coverage of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao through plebiscites. The next round of peace talks are expected to begin later this month in Kuala Lumpur.
In an editorial, The Manila Times said the government “should not be gulled again into another false peace” , noting that the “Moro rebels have burned us more than once”.
The newspaper said the government must demand proof that the MILF has operational control of its forces. One way to do this is by turning 53 terrorists who are believed to be under the MILF’s protection to the police and helping in their prosecution.
“The MILF must also show that it is not allied to the Jemaah Islamiah and the Abu Sayyaf. It should help the authorities locate and dismantle their camps inMindanao and Sulu. Short of these, the peace process should not go forward,” the Times said.
* Agreement with MILF almost done (The Manila Times, June 2)
* Not peace at all cost (The Manila Times, June 2)